Before talking about my experience, for people who do not know me, I am an extrovert, travel lover, adventure seeker. When I got to know about Vipassana through a friend of mine, I liked the concept and thought of giving it a try on my trip to South East Asia. So, after traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia for about 75 days, I reached the Vipassana Center in Bogor, Indonesia. Also, whatever I am about to write here is just my experience and I do not intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments at all.
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. Read Here
How to Reach
There are multiple ways. If you arrive at the Jakarta airport the same day. Take a Damri bus to Bogor and then a taxi to the center. Check your application acceptance email from Dhamma, for the detailed instructions. Also, you can hire a taxi from anywhere in Jakarta and it will take you directly to the center for max 600,000 rupiah (I paid 450K)
If you hire a taxi directly from Jakarta, beware of a scam near the turn in Bogor. I took a Blue Bird taxi and we were stopped by the police. I was asked for a fine of 1 million because apparently the passenger in the back seat also needs to use the seat belt in Indonesia. I have seen scams like this a lot. So, I laughed at the policeman and said I have no money. Starting from 1 million, after 15 minutes he said “Ok, can you give 300,000” I said no sir. He said Ok, go but use the belt now.
About the course
10-day Courses are an introductory course to Vipassana Meditation where the technique is taught step-by-step each day. The courses begin after a 2 – 4 pm registration period and orientation, followed by 10 full days of meditation, and end the morning of the 11th day by 7:30 am.
The most important point is, IT IS TOTALLY FREE. You get free accommodation and food here for all 11 days.
About the Center
For a lot of people I know, a place like Dhamma Java is the perfect honeymoon destination. A beautiful cottage, up to a small hill, right between the lush green forest. The people at the Dhamma, are extremely helpful and very cooperative.
When you arrive, you are asked to fill a form in which you share some details about you. Finally, all the luggage and items that are not allowed are submitted with the management. You are allotted one of the beds in the dormitory. Here are some pics of the front view.
Trust me on this, when you will see the center, you are going to fall in love with this place. The dormitory looks like this:
As I said, I have been traveling for more than 75 days. So, it was almost like a 100% contrast when I switch from being a total free soul, to a student here. You have to follow the strict schedule of Vipassana which includes almost 10+ hours of meditation every day, starting 4:30 AM in the morning. Never done any kind of meditation before, no gym, no exercise … absolutely nothing to improve the mind or the body.
Day 0 – The secret war
Before I reached here, I was told that there might be some lack of food supply and as there is no dinner, I might have to be a little hungry all the time. But when I reached here, I swear to god I felt like being in the food heaven of Indonesia. Not because the food was best, but because I am a vegetarian preferring person and the food here is free and vegetarian too. I was too tired of eating food very uniquely to avoid eating beef or pork. Here, I could eat anything, everything was on the menu for me. It was happening after so long. I was happy, so I decided, whatever happens now….. I am going to eat…. like a really really hungry person…
Starting this time, I was in a secret war with food. I ate 3 times I usually eat. Never cared of what it taste like or how much hunger do I have….. I just ate …every damn thing they served.
While I was giving my best to this fight of my own, I noticed that I also have company. Some other free souls, totally involved and dedicated to winning his own similar war. I was happy, I was happy like a newly married Indian girl who loves the in-law’s place but is unaware of the things coming.
After the lunch at about 3 PM, we went to our room and relaxed till evening 7 PM. A short introduction of the course and rules followed by a small meditation session. End of the day.
Day 1 – In your face freeloaders
It was morning 4 AM when we heard the ringing of this traumatizing bell. Some really excited folks (like me) had a shower, some only got up and all went to the meditation hall. Now, things started to really turn sweet. A two-hour session of meditation, in which all you are asked to do is to concentrate on the breath coming in and going out….. yeah that’s all. But it was not difficult because I knew that after these two boring hours we are having the breakfast.
Breakfast… rest… meditation..rest…meditation…that was the schedule. I found it really easy to concentrate and focus. But it was too boring for a guy like me.
After the Lunch, at about 5 PM, I was desperately waiting for the menu of tea time. This was the first shock. After the lunch at 11 AM, you only have a tea . no dinner.
After the meditation, I ran to the dining hall and found that all I had on my table was a banana. That’s all you get from this time until next morning 6 AM breakfast. I said ok, you wanna play… so let’s play. Ate the banana, followed the routine … and waited till next morning breakfast … when the ball comes in my court.
Day 2 – a witty mind and a sad soul
Starting the day 1, I was totally sure that I am going to stay until the end. It was not at all difficult… but just boring to pass the day without any other entertainment. But, I was sure about me completing the course.
In the meditation hall, it’s like a war-room. You are allowed to use the cushions, pillows as much as you need to make you sit comfortably. Some of us took this too seriously. Trust me when I say this, you will see the most unnatural poses in which a person can sit, right in this hall. Some would look like riding a horse made of pillows, some would look like they do not have a bone and obviously some would look like totally normal… as if it’s the easiest job for them to sit for hours, straight. Out of all, an 80+ years old man sitting next to me made me feel really really weak when I saw him not having any issue in sitting like that for hours.
By this time, I started thinking about my decision of staying for the full course. It was too difficult to pass time now. You can’t talk, can’t sing, no contact with anyone. All you do is eat, sleep, meditate. Not finding it interesting to focus while meditation, my mind started going in totally random thoughts. Sitting in a hemispherical position, I thought of different fool-proof plans of the course getting stopped. I dreamed of heavy rains causing flood, landslide, terrorist attacks and what not.
Obviously, I was the one to save everyone in all those cases … impressing that girl in a blue jacket with my immense power of killing 5 terrorists or jumping off a cliff. But nothing like that happened.
It was around 12 PM, after the lunch, I decided to walk at the most beautiful location inside the campus.
This is when I noticed that fat guy, who had really hard time in the meditation hall sitting in the straight pose. We saw each other for a moment, and something happened. We talked,
Fat Guy: Are you planning to leave?
Me: Yeah, may be tomorrow. What about you?
I was 100% sure that I am going to stay, but for my witty mind, this was the only moment after 2 days when I can actually have some fun. I replied positively, just to make sure that he opens up about himself.
Fat Guy: I am not sure, not enjoying it at all. Let’s see.
After this, again the usual day with lots of meditation and passing hours reading the marking on my water bottle, reading the instructions on my shampoo or making sure that I know every feature of my hand-watch, which clearly says it only has 3 features in the advertisement.
Day 3 – realization of consequences
Again, 4 AM and I woke up. Went to the meditation hall. Started thinking again if those beautiful and heroic events of mine. After the initial 2 hours of meditation, I opened my eyes and it was 4:45 AM. Yeah, it happens all the time… the guy who says time never stops… please ask him to attend Vipassana.
But when I opened my eyes, I saw the consequence of what I did yesterday. Remember that fat guy, he was not there … someone even removed his meditation seat. He left.
After, the meditation, I was having my breakfast when I noticed that using even the normal temp water makes my teeth hurt a lot. This was something I was having trouble for some time back. I tried using salt water to gargle, or ginger to provide some anti-septic. Nothing worked. I talked to the teacher in the evening, he suggested to leave the course and go see a doctor.
Day 4 – End of Journey
In the morning, I left the Vipassana. Went straight to the airport, rescheduled my ticket to Bali. Now here I am, sitting at Jakarta airport and waiting for my flight at 4:50 to Bali. Next, 10 days, in Bali and then fly back to my home.
Vipassana is not difficult to practice, only if you find it interesting. It was very easy for me to focus on the breath or realize what they asked me to feel. The problem is, my life doesn’t suck / I am not even 30 years / I do not have any guilt from the past / I was not a drug addict etc … most importantly I found that meditation is probably not my thing and I did not have any motivation for this.
I surely would have completed the course but couldn’t, because of a weird unforeseen problem. I would recommend this course to everyone who likes to experience something different or have the interest in meditation practices.
I am thankful to all the people at the Dhamma, for being too cooperative, compassionate and loving. I felt bad for not being able to complete the course, but I did not have a choice.